Leave of Absence

Why should I apply for a Leave of Absence?

If you intend to return to UB in the future, applying for a Leave of Absence will make it easier for you to return to UB.  If you are approved for a Leave of Absence, you will not need to reapply to UB since your Leave of Absence will preserve your place in your current degree program.  The Leave of Absence will also ensure that your UB email address is active during your leave.

How long can I be on a Leave of Absence?

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students are allowed a maximum of four semesters of approved leave during their degree program. 

  • If you are requesting a Leave of Absence because of military service that is expected to be longer than four semesters, you must present a copy of your military orders along with the Undergraduate Leave of Absence Request form to your Academic Advisor.

Graduate Students

Graduate student leaves are granted for a maximum of one year, but may be extended for up to one additional year if circumstances warrant it.

How do I apply for a Leave of Absence?

  1. Meet with the Graduate Secretary and/or Academic Advisor in your academic department to discuss your eligibility for a Leave of Absence.  If you meet the eligibility requirements, your academic department will sign the appropriate Leave of Absence form.
    • Be sure that you request an appointment with your advisor before the application deadline. 
    • The deadlines, which are available here, are the 7th day of classes of the first term you are requesting the leave. (This includes Saturday, but not Sundays or holidays.) 

2. Submit your completed Leave of Absence form to ISS by logging in to myISSS.  Click on the blue “LOGIN” button on the left side of the screen and enter your UBIT Name and Password.  Click on “F-1 Student Services”, and then “Leave of Absence”.

  • ISS will submit your Undergraduate Leave of Absence Request form/Graduate Student Petition for a Leave of Absence form to the Office of the Registrar.  The Office of the Registrar will decide if your Leave of Absence can be approved. ISS only reviews the application, advises you of the immigration implications and submits the application to the Registrar.
  • If you have registered for classes for the semester during which you will be on a leave, you must drop your classes.  
    • Approval for a Leave of Absence does not mean that your classes are automatically dropped.  If you do not drop your classes before the “last day to drop without financial penalty”, you will be required to pay any tuition or fees that you owe.  For more information, visit the Student Accounts' website.

If you miss the deadline to apply, then you will not be eligible for a Leave of Absence.

How does a Leave of Absence impact my immigration status?

It is extremely important that you understand how a Leave of Absence impacts your immigration status, and that your SEVIS record will be terminated while you are on your leave.  

While on a leave of absence, you are no longer enrolled at UB and you must be outside the U.S. This means that you cannot maintain your F-1 status and your SEVIS record must be terminated. Your SEVIS record will be terminated after you depart the U.S.  

SEVIS termination means that you are no longer in F-1/J-1 status and cannot use your UB I-20 to re-enter the U.S. until you complete the process to return from a leave of absence. This process to return to the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status is described in more detail below.

If you are outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will be issued an "initial I-20" to return to the U.S. after your leave. An "initial I-20" resets the F-1 eligibility "clock" which means that you must complete one full year (two full academic semesters) before you are eligible for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training.

Am I required to leave the U.S. while I am on a Leave of Absence?

Yes.  You cannot be inside the U.S. as a student if you are not enrolled in classes.  However, there are four exceptions to this rule:

  1. Students who are approved for a Medical Reduced Course Load and are receiving treatment for their medical condition inside the U.S. are allowed to remain in the U.S. while on a Leave of Absence.  
  2. Students who are approved for a leave of absence from UB, but who transfer to another U.S. school (and are registered full-time at that school) may also remain in the U.S.
  3. Students who have enrolled in the U.S. Military MAVNI program and who have been given a "ship-out" date.
  4. Students who changed their immigration status to a status other than F-1.

If you do not meet one of the above exceptions, you cannot remain in the U.S.  while on a Leave of Absence.  If you do, you will be in violation of your F-1 status and will accrue unlawful presence.  For that reason, you must provide your date of departure and date of re-entry before ISS can issue you a new I-20 or re-activate your SEVIS record. 

What must I do before I can return to UB?

Contact ISS 4-5 months before you plan to return to the U.S. We will review your situation to determine if you are eligible for a SEVIS re-activation or if an initial I-20 is required. We will also provide you with a list of the documents required for us to process your return to UB.

A SEVIS re-activation is only possible if you were outside the U.S. for no more than five months. The five months is counted starting the day after the last date you attended classes and ending on the first day of classes of the semester in which you will return. 

If you were outside the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will need an initial I-20 to return. You will also be required to pay the SEVIS Fee, and may need a new U.S. visa. Most students will need an "initial" I-20.

Do not attempt to re-enter the U.S. before completing the re-entry process with ISS. If you do, you will be denied entry.  

What happens if I exceed the maximum time allowed on a Leave of Absence or I am not eligible for a Leave of Absence?

Before you can return to UB, you must re-apply for admission. The process will vary depending on your degree level.

If you are an Undergraduate student:

You must complete the Re-Entry application and receive admission to UB.  Please contact the Office of International Admissions (intadmit@buffalo.edu) to request information on Re-entry.  If you are re-admitted to UB, the Office of International Admissions will issue you a new I-20.  ISS is not involved in the re-admission process.

If you are a Graduate Student:

You must contact your academic department.  They will inform you of the procedures necessary to return to UB. 

Can I return to UB to resume studies earlier than I originally planned?

You may not return to the U.S. during a semester in which you are not enrolled. However, if, for example, you are approved for a 3-semester Leave of Absence and decide to return to UB after only one semester outside the U.S., this will only be possible if there is sufficient time to reissue your I-20 and for you to book your flight, renew your U.S. visa (if needed), etc.  Please discuss your plans with an International Student Advisor, who will review your plans and determine if there is enough time for you to return.

How do I know if my Leave of Absence is approved?

You will receive an email from ISS when your Leave of Absence e-form was reviewed. You will also receive an email from the Office of the Registrar if your request has been approved or if there is a problem with your application. If you do not receive an email from the Office of the Registrar, you may contact ISS to find out if your Leave of Absence has been approved.

What should I do after I return to the U.S.?

  1. Check in with ISS within one week of your arrival.  
    • You will be provided instructions on how to upload copies of your U.S. visa stamp and admission stamp.  
    • If you were away from UB for one year or more, you will be required to attend an Immigration Session again and will have an IS Hold, which will prevent you from registering for classes until you attend the Immigration Session.  When you check in with ISS, you will be given dates of upcoming Immigration Sessions.
  2. Update your U.S. address in the HUB Student Center.  
    • This is very important!  Without your U.S. address in HUB, we cannot activate your SEVIS record.